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May 2019

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ASI unearths treasure at U.P. site

The Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) ongoing excavation of 4,000-year-old burial sites in Uttar Pradesh’s Sanauli has unearthed underground “sacred chambers”, decorated “legged coffins” as well as rice and dal in pots and animal bones buried with the bodies, ASI Institute of Archaeology director S.K. Manjul said on Tuesday. The excavation in the Baghpat district of U.P. was first started in 2018 and resumed in January this year, Dr. Manjul said, adding that the process of listing and preservation at the site was on at the moment. He said three chariots, some coffins, shields, swords and helmets had been unearthed, pointing towards the existence of a “warrior class in the area around 2,000 BCE”. “As an excavator, I think this is different from Harappan culture. It is contemporary to the last phase of the mature Harappan culture.

These findings are important to understand the culture pattern of the Upper Ganga-Yamuna doab. We found copper swords, helmets, shields and chariots,” said Dr.

Manjul. The excavators have found rice and urad dal in pots, cattle bones, wild pig and mongoose buried along with bodies, he said. “These may have been offered to the departed souls. We also found sacred chambers below the ground. After the procession, they put the body in the chamber for some treatment or rituals,” he said. Right now, the ASI is in the process of carrying out DNA, metallurgical and botanical analysis of samples and ground penetrating radar survey of the site, Dr. Manjul said.

Largest necropolis
While Dr. Manjul said he felt the site was different from the Harappan culture, an ASI statement on the excavation said: “Sanauli is located on the left bank of the River Yamuna, 68 km north-east of Delhi which brought to light the largest necropolis of the late Harappan period datable to around early part of second millennium BCE”. In one of the burial pits, the excavators found a wooden legged coffin that was decorated with steatite inlays with a female skeleton, the ASI said.

The pit also contained an armlet of semiprecious stones, pottery and an antenna sword placed near the head. Another area of the site included remains of four furnaces with three working levels and the “overall ceramic assemblage has late Harappan characters”, the ASI statement said.

- https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/asi-unearths-treasure-at-up-site/article26996341.ece, May 1, 2019

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Project to rebuild Mairie likely to miss deadline

More than one-and-a-half years after the foundation stone for rebuilding the Mairie building was laid, the project is likely to miss its May 2019 deadline due to slow pace of work. The iconic 19th century landmark on Beach Road collapsed in 2014 under the impact of incessant rain. The project is being implemented by the Project Implementation Agency (PIA) while the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is the architectural consultant. The building was to be completed in 18 months, said an official on condition of anonymity.

“While a major portion of construction of the structure has been completed, the work of fixing the wooden rafters, doors and windows and interior decoration is incomplete. Work is also on to complete plastering of the ceiling and laying of wooden flooring on the first floor of the building. The new structure will be modelled on the original using modern materials,” the official said. The project, with a financial assistance of ?14.83 crore from the World Bank, will include the office of the Registrar of Births and Deaths, council and committee section and a hall on the first floor.

Important landmark
Built in 1870-71, the building is an important landmark in the city. It formed part of an ensemble of important structures such as the old lighthouse, customs house and the French Consulate on Goubert Avenue. Considered a symbol of their colonial power, the French named the premises “Town Hall” (Hotel De Ville), which housed the office of the Mayor of Puducherry, the Municipal Council, the Registry and other offices, including the office of Registrar of Births and Deaths.

It was the biggest administrative building for 100 years and a symbolic landmark during the French regime. It was in this building that the first attempt at democracy for Puducherry was tried out in 1870-1900 long before the first general elections were held in the British India, according to INTACH. The building housed the Legislative Assembly of Puducherry for four years from 1964 (when the first general election was held in the wake of de jure transfer of power) before the Assembly was shifted to the present premises in 1969. The premises also was used for marriages and other public functions.

The eastern and western façade of the building featured arcaded entrance with a verandah on high plinth accessed by a broad flight of steps in dressed granite. The first floor had coloured galleries and a large ceremonial hall with wooden flooring.

- https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/project-to-rebuild-mairie-likely-to-miss-deadline/article27005579.ece, May 2, 2019

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Flora Fountain Mumbai: Landscaping at final stage, fountain plaza to be fully open in a month

The restoration work is being carried out by INTACH Mumbai Chapter along with INTACH Conservation Institute.” According to the heritage team, the restoration contract will cost Rs 1.73 crore while the beautification contract will cost Rs 2.42 crore. The plaza work includes specially cut basalt stones from Gujarat and facade lighting from Japan. In a month’s time, the iconic Flora Fountain, where the landscaping work is in its final stages, will be fully accessible to public after a two-year restoration. AdvertisingThe Flora Fountain was unveiled in January this year when the first phase of its restoration ended.

- https://www.nyoooz.com/news/mumbai/1368045/flora-fountain-mumbai-landscaping-at-final-stage-fountain-plaza-to-be-fully-open-in-a-month/, May 2, 2019

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Dahanu to get centre dedicated to turtle conservation

IN A FIRST: Awareness Centre will be designed in shape of a giant green sea turtle. If all goes as planned Dahanu, could soon boast of a first of its kind state-of-the-art awareness and research centre dedicate to turtles, which would be set up close to the Dahanu beach. The centre will itself be designed in the shape of a giant green sea turtle. Members of NGO Wildlife Conservation and Animal Welfare Association (WCAWA) who jointly run the turtle treatment and transit centre along with forest department at Dahanu beach, gave a detailed presentation to Principal Secretary (Forest) Vikas Kharge who on April 28 visited the centre.

Rahul Marathe, Range Forest Officer (RFO), Dahanu said that the Principal Secretary (Forest) was impressed with the facility and during the presentation, both upgrading of the existing transit centre and setting up of the new awareness centre was discussed at length.

"He has asked us to procure sophisticated medical instruments including X-Ray machines and upgrade the transit centre.

Also for awareness centre, we will be preparing a detailed proposal soon," he said. The WCAWA has proposed an awareness centre of 120sqfeet X 120sqfeet and 25 feet in height, which will also have a dedicated research centre including a library to help anyone carrying out research on turtles. "The thought is to create a world-class interpretation centre for tourists especially school and college students for creating awareness about turtles for which new-age mediums of engagements like interactive touch screen panels as well as displays would be placed," said Dr Dinesh Vinherkar, wildlife veterinarian and turtle expert associated with WCAWA adding that the centre will become a tourist attraction in Dahanu.

Dhaval Kansara, founder of WCAWA informed that there will be taxidermy models of different types of turtles installed as well. "The centre will also have selfie points and will also offer visitors a peek into the daily life and culture of the tribals and fishing communities from Dahanu," he informed. "The transit centre also needs a complete makeover with larger tanks for the turtles, modern operation theatre for complex surgeries on the amphibians, X-ray machines. We are glad that even the Principal Secretary (Forest) agreed to it and has asked us to prepare an MOU with the forest department," said Vinherkar.

GIANT LEAP
Dahanu turtle treatment and transit centre, on an average, rescues, treats and rehabilitates over 60 turtles including Olive Ridley, Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbills and Loggerheads every year.

- https://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-dahanu-to-get-centre-dedicated-to-turtle-conservation-2745432, May 2, 2019

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In sight, but out of mind: Memorial for martyred WW-I soldiers in Bengaluru lies unsung

A war memorial? Here, on Brigade Road? Oh, you mean the G3 bus stop?,” asked a surprised college student when we enquired if she knew about the Madras Pioneers War Memorial. Ask someone about the battle of Saragarhi now, and they might be able to tell you how towards the end of 1800s, a handful of Sikh soldiers (who were part of the British Army) stood their ground against 10,000 Afghan invaders. The martyred soldiers were recognised by the British for their grit and bravery, and thanks to the recently released Akshay Kumar-starrer Kesari, more people seem to be aware of the tale. Closer home, CE decided to pay a visit to the Madras Pioneers War Memorial on Brigade Road and found that most people were oblivious to the monument located at the end of the road, opposite Samsung Opera House.

The memorial was erected in 1928, after the first World War, and an inscription on the stone reads: ‘Erected by their comrades in memory of officers, non-commissioned officers and pioneers of the first Madras Pioneers who gave their lives during the Great War 1914-18’. Tejshvi Jain, founding director of ReReeti, an organisation involved in promotion of museums, galleries and heritage sites, said: “The city was a huge cantonment and the Maharaja of Mysore, along with other rulers of princely states, were obliged to help the Queen. So the soldiers sent included many British officers from Bengaluru and Indian sepoys as well.” Surrounded by a couple of benches, the memorial looks clean.

Vendors selling their ware nearby told CE that BBMP sanitation workers visit the site every morning. However, the grey-stoned structure (with inscriptions about how many British and Indian officers, NGOs and pioneers from three battalions of the Madras Pioneers participated in the war) stands tall, but hardly proud, as passersby don’t even pay attention to it. Most seem to be waiting for their next bus while one or two lie down under a tree. According to Girish Salian, a vendor, people visit the memorial for about 10-15 minutes. “The crowd seems to increase in the evening but most are waiting for their bus as opposed to actually paying attention to the structure,” he said. Agreed Nalina PS, a student from St Joseph’s College of Commerce, who was waiting for a bus back home. “It’s sad but people utilise the benches and space available while waiting for their next ride, while only foreigners or tourists are actually interested in the monument,” she said.

Salian, and other vendors, do, however, point out that the monument is lit up in the evenings, a change that was incorporated close to a year ago. Information boards, however, are still missing. “People wonder what the structure is doing here, so it would help to have a signboard to make people aware of what they are looking at,” said Jain. Meera Iyer, convenor of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Bengaluru chapter, agreed, adding, “There are many places around the city that need placards explaining their historical importance. This memorial is definitely one of them.” Peek into history The Madras Pioneers War Memorial was erected in 1928 by Captain Tasker Taylor. “The London Cenotaph was constructed in 1920 and the architecture of the memorial in Bengaluru is supposed to be similar to the former,” said INTACH convenor Meera Iyer, adding that the name was eventually changed to Sapper War Memorial.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/2019/apr/02/in-sight-but-out-of-mind-memorial-for-martyred-ww-i-soldiers-in-bengaluru-lies-unsung-1959313.html, May 3, 2019

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Revive Hyderabad's music heritage: Anjani Kumar

Hyderabad was once the capital of classical music, recalled Hyderabad City Police Commissioner of Anjani Kumar. The city had extended patronage to the artists who settled here from around the globe, he added. Mr Anjani Kumar was speaking on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Padma Bhushan Bade Ghulam Ali Khan at Daira Mir Momin, Sultan Shahi, where the great artist was laid to rest. He said there was a need to enlighten the new generation about classical music and the legends in this field.

Mr Anjani Kumar said he knew of Bade Ghulam Ali since college when he heard for the first time his ‘yaad piya ki aaye...’ . He said Hyderabad was the capital of the classical music of India and there was a need to revive this form of music again. He said, “If we arrange concerts and invite artists from other parts of India to perform here, our new generation who are zealous about pop and YouTube music will experience the beauty of classic music, which is the root of music.”

He said that the government and his department would organise programmes to revive our cultural heritage. Convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage P. Anuradha Reddy said that when one hears of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali one is reminded about classical music and Mughal e Azam. “Music unites people of different faiths and backgrounds,” she said. She said that 90 per cent of the residents of Hyderabad were not aware about our legends and their contribution in various fields. There was a need to arrange concerts in memory of great personalities like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. “It will help to enlighten people about the great personalities of our city and to those who settled here.

The Government should extend its help to those organizations which are promoting art,” she said. Mrs. Anuradha Reddy expressed her concern over the Metro Rail route which goes from Imliban to Falaknuma via Darusshifa, which may hide and damage many heritage structures and monumental places. She said that on the stretch between Imliban and Sultan Shahi, there were many historical places and monumental structures like Darusshifa, Munshi Naan, Aashoorkhanas and Daira Mir Momin. “How many heritage structures will be ruined for this project? Why are they avoiding underground routes?” she asked.

- https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/030419/revive-hyderabads-music-heritage-anjani-kumar.html, May 3, 2019

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Indian Railways Kacheguda railway station gets a beautiful makeover! Stunning images of the heritage building

The Kacheguda railway station is an iconic station and has among the most exquisite buildings from the railway terminals in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The station has been given a beautiful makeover. Indian Railways has given a passenger-friendly makeover to the Kacheguda railway station in Telangana, while preserving its heritage structure look and feel. The Kacheguda railway station is an iconic station and has among the most exquisite buildings from the railway terminals in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. According to a railway official that Financial Express Online spoke to, Indian Railways has upgraded the Kacheguda railway station while maintaining its iconic structure. “The structure of the Kacheguda railway station is around 100 years old and since it is a heritage building. we have preserved its look, painting it from time to time. The upgradation drive has been carried out within the existing structure, focusing on enhancing passenger amenities,” the official told Financial Express Online. We take a look at what the upgraded Kacheguda railway station offers:

1.The Kacheguda station has been converted to an energy efficient railway station with 100 per cent LED lighting. The station has solar panels with capacity of 400 KwP. With these, the anticipated savings per year recorded by the station is around 6.5 lakh energy units worth Rs 48 lakh in bills and around 606 tonnes of CO2 reduction on a yearly basis.

2. As part of environment-friendly initiatives, bio-toilets or green toilets have been installed on the station platforms. Two disposable water bottle crushing machines, water recycling plant is also located at the platforms. Sanitary Napkin incinerators are also provided along with sanitary napkin vending machines in the ladies waiting halls.

3. A sewage treatment plant was set up at the station which yields 3.5 lakh litres on a daily basis and caters to 25 per cent requirements of the station. Water from the recycling plant is used for cleaning of concrete apron of all platforms, pit lines, exteriors of coaches, watering the gardens etc.

4. The interiors of the railway station have been decorated with cheriyal paintings which is symbolic of the tradition and culture of Telangana for the passengers who come from all over the country. The walls of the station entrance and platform one are painted with Warli art.

5. The station is identified as the first of its kind railway station of the Indian Railways network which has introduced DigiPay for railway customers to transact any amount on the digital payment gateway with the use of debit/credit cards, mobile paperless ticketing and payment through the use of digital wallets. Additionally, free high speed Wi-Fi service of ‘Rail Wire’ is provided as part of the ‘Digital India’ program in collaboration with Google.

6. Many amenities for passengers are provided at the station such as lifts, escalators and complete cover over sheds on all platforms. The renovated retiring rooms are priced at rate affordable rates for passengers at the station. Along with this, the ‘NavRaS’ application and ‘Rail Station Info’ for facilitating the information about various passenger facilities at the station.

7. There is a lounge at the station for short duration stay of passengers. Cab facility as well as pre-paid auto booth service are available through mobile applications for passengers.

8. The Kacheguda Station is ranked at the 14th position in the All India cleanliness awards of ‘A1’ category stations in a third party audit survey conducted by Quality Council of India (QCI). The station has been awarded with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) heritage award and has one of its kind exclusive Rail Museum, displaying the heritage old railway equipments.

- https://www.financialexpress.com/infrastructure/railways/indian-railways-kacheguda-railway-station-gets-a-beautiful-makeover-stunning-images-of-the-heritage-building/1569359/, May 6, 2019

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Governor addresses academic discourse studies

While noting that every citizen has to be a game changer in their own capacities in bringing significant changes in the country, Nagaland Governor PB Acharya has advocated empowerment of citizens through right education. He urged the people of the North East to change their mindset instead of considering themselves as backward while addressing the academic gathering at Sangai Hall, Hotel Imphal on May 5.

Speaking as the chief guest, Governor Acharya said that India will be able to stand up only when everyone takes their own responsibilities and play the role of a game changer in their own capacities. Further stating that education, empowerment, electricity and employment were the basic impetus for development, he opined that universities should be able to give right and extensive knowledge to students/youth, so that they can make use of their wisdom in bringing development in the society. He also observed that the main aim of universities should be to strengthen the society by empowering students/people through education. He said that North East region was blessed with rich natural resources and stated that graduates and educated people should focus on how to utilize them.

He further expressed his desire for educated people in the North East region to take advantage of the region’s rich natural resources and bring development in the region. Manipur University’s retired Professor N Joykumar who also delivered a speech on the topic “Historical Prospect of North East India” at the programme stated that North East region had played vital role in the process of anti-imperialist movement in India, while citing Bir Tikendrajit, Rani Gaidinliu and HijamIrabot among others as examples. He then observed that the regional history is more important than National history adding that India’s National history is created by the regional histories of India.

INTACH, Manipur Chapter Convener Dr RK Ranjan delivered the key-note address. PRO to Governor in a press release stated that the academic discourse was organised by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Manipur Chapter.

- http://morungexpress.com/governor-addresses-academic-discourse-studies/, May 6, 2019

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Raising the big concern

The iconic Charminar lost a large chunk of its ornamental lime stucco work as it crashed to the ground this week, raising concerns over the mosque’s future. As a big chunk of decorative lotus petals and flowers that came off from one of the mosque’s four minarets late Wednesday night, causing people to wonder if age was catching up with the 428-year-old mosque.

Ratish Nanda, conservation architect and CEO of Aga Khan Trust for Culture, who has worked closely with Archaeological Survey of India, the custodian of the monument, explained why he’s not very concerned about the incident. He said, “During a previous conservation work, weight may have been added to the bits of designs that came off. Symbols like the lotus project outwards from the walls, which can cause an imbalance. So the issue was not a structural problem.

It should not have happened. My gut instinct is that the structure overall is in a pretty stable condition.” Nanda, added that one positive outcome from the incident would be if the ASI received additional manpower and funds for their work.

He added, “It’s an extremely important and unique structure with none other like it in purpose in the country. Hopefully the attention the incident has garnered will mean that the ASI gets more funds and manpower for their work.” But at a time of advanced technology, can’t modern methods be used to protect the heritage structure? Divay Gupta, principal director of Architectural Heritage division at INTACH explains, “I don’t think modern technology can make it easier or more difficult to maintain the Charminar.

It may not be useful to restore the structure as it needs traditional materials, but it can be used in other ways, such as monitoring it. For examples constantly checking for any deteriorating cracks, gathering water, etc.” Divay added that it’s challenging to keep a historic building in good shape as increased pollution, climate change and tourist pressure also take a toll.

Samir D’Monte, founder of SDM Architects was surprised that it happened under ASI supervision. “It could be due to water seeping in or stagnating or fungal growth. But to cover the massive amount of heritage structures in India must be hugely challenging for the ASI.” The ASI was contacted for a response but a spokeswoman confirmed the team was on site at the Charminar and unavailable for comments.

- https://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/060519/raising-the-big-concern.html, May 6, 2019

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Heritage walk to tree plantation:Poll authorities in Delhi raising voting awareness innovatively

A heritage walk through the bylanes of Old Delhi, tree plantation by local residents and a qawwali evening are among the innovative ways through which the poll body in the city is raising awareness on voting ahead of the May 12 election here. Delhi's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ranbir Singh said the Systematic Voter's Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) team and the Returning Officers in the seven constituencies have also taken several initiatives to achieve maximum outreach.

Singh said a huge hydrogen balloon has been installed in Amar Colony to attract people's attention and it carries a message 'Vote on May 12'. "The Election Commission has made endeavours to ensure no voter is left behind and we have taken various steps in Delhi to reach out to voters, in interior areas and in open parks, among other places, but innovation is the key," Singh said. As many as 164 candidates are in fray in Delhi, where the polls is largely being seen as a triangular contest among the AAP, BJP and the Congress.

Of the over 1.43 crore eligible voters in Delhi, 78,73,022 are male and 64,42,762 female, while 669 belong to the third gender. "While devising various initiatives under the SVEEP programme, the idea was to reach out to those places a well where turnout have been low in the past. And a number of wonderful initiatives being taken across the constituency, we are hoping that there would be an increase in voter turnout this year," Singh told . Seeking to reach out to people in the Walled City, Delhi CEO Office, in partnership with INTACH and a local NGO, had organised a heritage walk in its bylanes, raising awareness on the city's built legacy as well on voting simultaneously.

"During the walk, several people got curious and joined it and that helps in raising awareness as our officials carry pamphlets and other educational material for distribution," he said. They are also reaching out to morning walkers and joggers in various parks and handling them pamphlets and other voter awareness material.

A qawalli performance by Nizami brothers was held recently in the premises of a college in Chandni Chowk constituency, besides a special app dedicated to facilitate voters in accessing poll-related information, that was launched late April. In North West Delhi constituency, a plantation drive has been started under which polling officials would encourage people to plant trees while taking pledge to vote, officials said, adding that about 1.25 lakh trees are to be planted under the drive. The Delhi CEO had recently also taken a ride in the Delhi Metro to reach out to voters and appealed to them to vote on May 12 when the seven parliamentary constituencies in Delhi goes to polls. The seven constituencies are -- Chandni Chowk, North Delhi, West Delhi, North West Delhi, South Delhi, East Delhi and New Delhi.

Singh said our endeavour has been to reach out to both young and old voters, first-timers and centennial ones. Under the SVEEP programme, wrap advertisements have been put up on DTC buses, metro trains, and hoarding have also been mounted to raise awareness on voting. Special awareness programmes have also been carried out to reach out to third gender voters and those with disabilities. The Election Commission has also kept a theme of 'Accessible Election' for the 2019 polls.

A dance performance by a troupe of differently abled artists, who hold a Guinness World Record, is slated to take place Tuesday evening at Dilli Haat, Janakpuri as part of an initiative by the District Election Officer (West). As an innovative measure, even in Delhi Jal Board bills, a line of appeal to vote has been printed to raise awareness. KND KJ KJ KJ

- https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/heritage-walk-to-tree-plantationpoll-authorities-in-delhi-raising-voting-awareness-innovatively/1530021, May 7, 2019

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Efficient public transport system eludes Puducherry

The lack of an efficient and dedicated public transport system in Puducherry is proving to be a bugbear for the general public and for policy makers in the Union Territory. While Puducherry has made stupendous progress in almost all sectors over the years, a virtual failure on the part of successive governments to ensure proper public transportation system is marring the merits of development.

Revenue hike

In spite of the unbridled increase in the number of vehicles, including non-transport ones, and a significant hike in revenue to the government through the transport sector, there has been no proper plan to put in place an effective public transportation system in the U.T.

Official sources claimed that the number of two-wheelers and cars alone had registered a significant jump over the years, while vehicles under the non-transport category remained stable. Statistics available with the Regional Transport Department revealed that as many as 11,27,940 vehicles were plying in the Union Territory. This included a whopping 7,70,839 two-wheelers, 6,993 three-wheelers (autos and tempos), 3,684 buses and 3,794 omni buses.

While vehicles grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of close to 35% in the U.T., the growth of public transport vehicles was a meagre 0.38% of the buses per 1,000 population, according to a report of the Transport Department. Another disturbing feature is that although the transport sector offers good scope for the government to tap revenue, the number of vehicles, especially buses operated by the government, is far less than those operated by the private sector to link Puducherry to different locations.

“A majority of the residents are dependent only on autos and tempos to commute daily. Once an effective public transportation system is put in place, people will only prefer them, dispensing with the need to have more vehicles on the roads,” R. Venkatesh, a resident, said. Presently, Puducherry presents a picture of almost every household owning not less than three two-wheelers.

The congestion on the roads, coupled with poor traffic management, is also due to want of proper urban mobility planning. Inspite of repeated representations, no action has been evolved so far, said another official. Ashok Panda, co-convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), said: “An efficient public transport system has to be put in place, so that more people use it. Only battery-operated tempos/autos and mini buses should be allowed to run in Boulevard Town. Air-conditioned mini buses could also be operated at a higher price to enable more people to use public transport.

Many cities have only e-rickshaws or battery-operated auto-rickshaws. Puducherry needs to get started on this idea which is very much suited for the Old Town.” A pilot project could be taken up in the French quarters with electric vehicles plying from the north to south on every street, he said. Tourists could park their vehicles at Subbaiya Salai or the Old Port area and the inner streets could become a fully no-parking zone with one-way traffic. The Beach Promenade, which is fully pedestrian from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. (the next day), is very popular with residents of Puducherry and the tourists. A similar initiative can be taken up with the Dumas and the Romain Street from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m, Mr. Panda added. The Smart City project, being funded by the Government of India, gives good opportunity to take up these initiatives - cycle lanes to bring back bicycles and more pedestrian space for people to walk wouls be ideal. Puducherry could set a whole new trend in India, Mr. Panda said. According to a Transport Department official, Intelligent Public Transport System is the need of the hour in Puducherry.

In an effort aimed at the overhaul of the public transport system, the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Limited (DIMTS) had submitted its Comprehensive Mobility Plan to the Government. The CMP, submitted in 2015, had suggested that tempos, which are currently plying in Puducherry, be gradually replaced with e-rickshaws, he said.

Urban mobility plan

The Comprehensive Mobility Plan will be incorporated in the Comprehensive Development Plan, which will be implemented under the Smart City project. Agence Francaise Development (AFD), the French bilateral agency, has come up with a plan for urban mobility for Puducherry. However, the government suggested that urban mobility be included for the entire U.T. and AFD had agreed to the proposal, he said.

- https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/efficient-public-transport-system-eludes-puducherry/article27061337.ece, May 8, 2019

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200-year-old boat dug up at Lucknow's Chhattar Manzil

Residents of Lucknow and heritage enthusiasts from the world over had for long heard that boats were used from Chhattar Manzil to cross the Gomti river, on whose banks the 19th century palace still stands. There was no proof until Wednesday, when a major discovery put the archaeological seal on a popular folklore.

A wooden boat, dating back some 200 years, was excavated at Chhattar Manzil by a team of conservation architects working towards the restoration of the building. Dug up from 19ft below ground, the giant boat made of individual planks is 50ft long and 12ft wide. It is tell-tale evidence that the Nawabs of Awadh did use boats from the steps of their palace to cross Gomti.

"It is a major discovery that archaeologically validates the long-held hypothesis that boats were used for commute from the palace to the other shore," said director of state archaeology department AK Singh. The team of conservationists from the faculty of architecture, which is the consultant for the entire Chhattar Manzil project, first spotted the wooden planks around 9am. "We got busy digging manually - and carefully.

It took us two hours to retrieve the boat, which appears to be from the Nawabi period and was found docked in position," said conservation architect Kumar Kartikey. Kumar clarified that the boat was not from the time when Lucknow was flooded in 1960. "By that time, there was already a road called thandi sadak on this side. So, we should have found debris, but we found silt, which means it was the riverbed," he explained.

The boat is being temporarily preserved on the spot and in the future may be moved to a glass chamber inside the palace museum, said conservationist Nitin Kohli. He added that the state department had informed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) about the discovery and its expertise would be sought on preservation.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/200-year-old-boat-dug-up-at-chhattar-manzil/articleshow/69243586.cms, May 9, 2019

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INTACH preparing dossier for Srinagar's heritage city bid

The Jammu and Kashmir chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) on Thursday said it is preparing a dossier to be submitted to the Union Human Resource Development Ministry for inclusion of Srinagar in the list of UNESCO heritage cities.

"We are applying for Srinagar city to be listed as a UNESCO heritage city under the category of crafts and folk arts'," Saleem Beg, convener of the state chapter of INTACH told IANS.

The dossier has to be submitted by June 30, he added. There is one slot each year for an Indian city to be recognised as a UNESCO heritage city. "In order to make a strong case for the inclusion of Srinagar city in the list, we are working together with the Development and Research Organisation for Nature, Arts and Heritage (DRONAH)," he said.

Beg said that they had to take DRONAH on board "because the state government has laid down a condition that only that organisation can tender for getting a city listed as a UNESCO heritage city that had at least once successfully competed with the tender". "DRONAH had last year succeeded in getting Jaipur listed as a UNESCO heritage city.

Till now Jaipur is the only city in India to have made to the prestigious list in the category of a 'crafts city'. The other two cities, Chennai and Banaras (Varanasi), are in the UNESCO heritage list in the 'music city' category," he added. Beg said Srinagar has a strong case since it is a 2,200-year-old city with historical standing in crafts and folk arts drawing on its centuries-old connections with Central Asia. Founded originally during the reign of the Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Empire around 250 B.C., he said that crafts and folk arts flourished greatly in this city during the reign of local Sultan, Zainul Abidin (c 1420-70), known popularly as 'Budshah' (The Great King) of the Shah Mir dynasty.

"Among the arts introduced here during this period are papier-mache, khatamband, carpet weaving, sozni, wood-carving, pashmina etc.", he said. Beg said that if the heritage city tag was approved, crafts and folk arts of Srinagar city and the rest of Kashmir would get a new lease of life. "There would be an implementation programme of three to four years that would be aimed at sustainable development of Srinagar through a vigorous policy of revival of these otherwise fast vanishing crafts and arts," he said.

- https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/intach-preparing-dossier-for-srinagar-s-heritage-city-bid-119050901309_1.html, May 10, 2019

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In a colony of their own

Their story began on a honey sweet note. They were intrigued by the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Paliyan tribals, the Adivasis based in the Palani Hills of Tamil Nadu, and wanted to be a part of it. The practice of gathering honey, and the prospect of helping the Adivasis sell the wild viscous nectar got the Bengaluru-based duo, Nishitha Vasanth and Priyashri Mani, to move to Kodaikanal. “In 2015, we visited villages in the Palani Hills to understand the Adivasis who live there and take care of the forests.

As we documented their history for a project funded by INTACH Delhi, we discovered the traditional practice of gathering honey. They asked us if we like to buy some honey for ourselves. We soon realised we were buying more than we could consume and hence decided to sell it. Things grew organically from then on," says Priyashri. What began as an exchange of ideas eventually resulted in Hoopoe on a Hill (HoH), adds Nishita. “The Adivasis have a long tradition of trading honey. Earlier, they would exchange it for clothes or salt or whatever they needed, but now, they do it for money,” says Priyashri. “We don’t claim to change lives.

I think it is presumptuous to assume that something like this can have such a huge impact. Although everyone is constantly looking for simplistic narratives of change, we feel meaningful change is a much longer and slower process, and we are interested in that,” says Priyashri. The duo was initially amazed by how the Paliyans, foray into the Shola forests in groups for days on end to gather honey. “They camp in the forests and build their tools on the spot with vines and dried twigs. A small prayer is offered before skilful climbers clamber up (trees, caves or cliffs) to the hives. They smoke out the bees, dely collecting only the honey chamber of the hive. The honeycombs are brought down and the honey is extracted. Leaving behind hives for the following season and the bees, they return with cans of honey on their long journey home,” says Priyashri.

Nishita says this knowledge and skill has been passed down over many generations. There are cultural practices and rituals or ‘ways of doing things’ within the community that upholds values of sustainability and prevents over-consumption. “The Paliyans lead much more ‘sustainable’ lives than us. So we try and learn rather than teach them lessons on sustainability,” Nishita says. The Paliyans have a tradition of not killing the bees for their nectar. During the harvesting process, bees are temporarily smoked out of their hives so they return to their homes aer the harvesting. “Only the honey chamber is cut from the comb, leaving behind the brood intact so that bees can simply rebuild the honey chamber in the following season. Also, the scale of the harvest is limited by the fact that no machines or large scale harvesting techniques are employed. The harvest is still done by individual Adivasis who have to camp several nights in the forest to collect honey. The entrepreneurs have ensured a constant market for the harvest. According to Priyashri, during the honey season, the Adivasis have access to relatively larger sums of money which is used to cover bigger expenses like school fees, weddings, paying back loans etc. Compared with daily wage work, this activity generates more capital within the community, Nishita says.

Just like the Hoopoe bird, known for its surging ight, Nishita and Priyashri’s journey, too, has been one of ups and downs, but contentment has kept them aoat. Although the duo moved to Kodaikanal, they still remain connected with the city. Work constantly brings us to the city. But we love our home here,” they say in unison.

- https://www.deccanherald.com/sunday-herald/sunday-herald-melange/in-a-colony-of-their-own-733084.html, May 13, 2019

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How heritage lakes of Delhi are vanishing

Delhi Jal Board (DJB) is supplying 900 MGD (million gallons a day) of water - mostly from canals carrying river waters and partially from ranney wells and tubewells. Yet, there is a massive shortage of 300 MGD that triggers clashes and allows the water mafia to thrive in the dog days of summer. In such a situation, conservation of natural lakes and ponds that are not only a source of water but also hold rainwater and aid in groundwater recharge is the least Delhi could have done. But the heritage water bodies of Delhi are being lost to brazen illegal concretisation, garbage dumping and sewage disposal, a Mail Today ground report has revealed. A total of 611 water bodies like lakes, ponds, wells and traditional rainwater storages were supposed to be under the jurisdiction of agencies such as DJB, Delhi Development Authority (DDA), forest department, municipal corporations and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

But 274 have dried up and 190 have been lost forever, official data accessed by Mail Today reveals. In December, DJB passed a budget of Rs 453 crore to rejuvenate 159 dying lakes, starting with 10 in four months. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who heads DJB, then said "Delhi will become a city of lakes. They will reduce pollution, recharge groundwater and make our city beautiful. All these lakes will be developed into tourist places with beautiful landscapes." But nothing much has changed since then, as illustrated by the five case studies below.

HAUZ KHAS LAKE (SOUTH DELHI)
The 47-acre Hauz Khas Lake, dug up in the 14th century to serve as a tank during Alauddin Khilji's rule, has been dying a slow death. The presence of the tomb of Feroz Shah in the vicinity adds to the historical significance. But the source of water in the lake is sewage from Munirka, RK Puram, Hauz Khas, Mehrauli and Vasant Kunj.

"The lake looks dirty and stinks," said Green Park resident Sarojini Sinha. DDA officials said they have hired a contractor to minimise the smell through chemical sprinkling. Manu Bhatnagar of conservation body INTACH said the water quality is improving through treatment.

NAJAFGARH LAKE (SOUTHWEST DELHI)
It was only in February 2017 that Delhi and Haryana acknowledged the existence of this lake. But even now there are hardly any efforts to restore to curb encroachments. Spread over 225 sqkm at the end of the 19th century, this lake has shrunk due to the construction of a drain and the destruction of the upstream Sahibi Nadi channel. "If the lake is revived, it will be major source of water and a biodiversity resource," said environmentalist Manoj Misra.

Sahibi is a tributary of the Yamuna. The river is now colloquially called Najafgarh drain because of the untreated sewage that is dumped into its waters. The state government had, in December, rolled out a proposal for its restoration. But it is yet to see the light of the day. Once revived, it would help in recharging the depleting water table in Gurugram.

SANJAY VAN LAKE (SOUTH DELHI)
Spread across 6 km, this lake is also being flooded with sewage coming from Mehrauli and Vasant Kunj. "We need to clean up the sewage it's a threat to groundwater," said Sunil Kumar, a gardener at Sanjay Van. Efforts to conserve the lake started in 2010 when DDA hired Air Vice Marshal (retd) Vinod Rawat, a botanist, and his team.

The idea was to eventually convert it into a bird sanctuary. The project was, however, stalled in 2018 after Rawat passed away. DDA officials said that they have developed a check-dam and artificial water falls to attract visitors but the smell has been a spoiler even for domestic and migratory birds.

HAUZ-I-SHAMSI (SOUTH DELHI)
Once spread over 100 hectares in the middle of Mehrauli market, Hauz-i-Shamsi, popularly known as Shamsi Talab, is today full of sewage. Not only has the 750-year-old water body shrunk, but its catchment area has also seen construction. The pond was built by Sultan Shams-Ud-Din-Iltutmish in 1230. It assumes significance because it stands next to Lodhiera built Jahaz Mahal which hosts the annual "Phool Walon Ki Sair" festival attended by many including CM Kejriwal. Acting on court orders, the talab was cleaned many times in the past. But since sewage finds its way into it, the problem returns after a few years. The pond is currently under the supervision of ASI which says it has cleared 30,000 square meter of vegetation.

"We have deployed a guard to prevent local residents from dumping garbage into it. Awareness among local residents to preserve ancient monuments is the key here and we have contacted RWA officials to play a role of watchdog," an official of ASI said.

TIKRI KHURD LAKE, NARELA
Misra has written a letter to CM Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal with a plea to save the lake. Spread over 10 hectares, the lake is a prominent water body in the area. "It is with great regret that we draw your attention to the comparative Google earth images (2014 and 2018) of the lake, which clearly show how a systematic encroachment over it is underway by first creation of a wall and later raising of structures," the letter said. "Locals have encroached its land since 2014, thus squeezing its size and shape," Misra told Mail Today.

The lake, experts said, can be spotted in the 1911 Survey of India Map and in the National Wetland Atlas of 2010. The Supreme Court had in February 2017 directed all wetlands noted in the atlas to be protected. Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the wetlands authority of Delhi to hold a meeting and decide within a month whether the Tikri Khurd Lake is a wetland.

- https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/how-heritage-lakes-of-delhi-are-vanishing-1523443-2019-05-13, May 13, 2019

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Water tunnel unearthed at iconic Chhattar Manzil

After a wooden boat was excavated at Chhattar Manzil earlier in the week, a waterways tunnel. This is the third such tunnel to be dug up at the site after similar ones were discovered in November-December and JanuaryFebruary. Members of the state archaeology department, faculty of architecture and private conservationists are working on the restoration of the 19th century building. “The tunnel, it seems, was not used for commute, but as a freshwater source to Chhattar Manzil.

Given the symmetry of the entire building, we are hopeful there will be a fourth tunnel beneath this,” he added. The three tunnels discovered until now were found at varying levels of depth in the building, with the latest being at 19 feet into the ground. On Saturday, a team of the National Research Laboratory For Conservation Of Cultural Property, a Union government body under the ministry of culture, also visited Chhattar Manzil. The body collected samples of the wooden boat for its chemical conservation and set guidelines for its protection and preservation. The 50-foot-long and 12-foot-wide wooden boat was excavated from a depth of 19 feet on Wednesday. This suggested it was used in the Nawabi era for commute. The national conservation team has asked authorities to document the boat both photographically and architecturally by drawings.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/water-tunnel-unearthed-at-iconic-chhattar-manzil/articleshow/69287498.cms, May 13, 2019

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How heritage lakes of Delhi are vanishing

After a wooden boat was excavated at Chhattar Manzil earlier in the week, a waterways tunnel. This is the third such tunnel to be dug up at the site after similar ones were discovered in November-December and JanuaryFebruary. Members of the state archaeology department, faculty of architecture and private conservationists are working on the restoration of the 19th century building.

“The tunnel, it seems, was not used for commute, but as a freshwater source to Chhattar Manzil. Given the symmetry of the entire building, we are hopeful there will be a fourth tunnel beneath this,” he added. The three tunnels discovered until now were found at varying levels of depth in the building, with the latest being at 19 feet into the ground.

On Saturday, a team of the National Research Laboratory For Conservation Of Cultural Property, a Union government body under the ministry of culture, also visited Chhattar Manzil. The body collected samples of the wooden boat for its chemical conservation and set guidelines for its protection and preservation. The 50-foot-long and 12-foot-wide wooden boat was excavated from a depth of 19 feet on Wednesday. This suggested it was used in the Nawabi era for commute. The national conservation team has asked authorities to document the boat both photographically and architecturally by drawings.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/water-tunnel-unearthed-at-iconic-chhattar-manzil/articleshow/69287498.cms, May 13, 2019

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Ancient rock art in the plains of India

Archaeologists work at an excavation site in a cave near the town of Kankavali in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, India, April 14, 2019. Two amateur archaeologists have uncovered a collection of mysterious rock carvings on the Indian coastal plain south of Mumbai. Researchers have discovered Stone Age rock carvings—which could be between 10,000 to 40,000 years old—on a stony hilltop south of Mumbai.

Some of the images appear to relate to a life of hunting and gathering—deer, fish, turtles. Others depict animals of great power, like tigers and elephants. Their style is realistic for the animals and more stylised for humans. By James Gorman and Atul Loke.

In the evening breeze on a stony hilltop a day’s drive south of Mumbai, Sudhir Risbud tramped from one rock carving to another, pointing out the hull of a boat, birds, a shark, human figures and two life-size tigers. “They’re male,” he said with a smile, noting that the carver had taken pains to make the genitalia too obvious to ignore. He was doing a brief tour of about two dozen figures, a sampling of 100 or so all etched into a hard, pitted rock called laterite that is common on the coastal plain that borders the Arabian Sea. The carvings are only a sample of 1,200 figures that Risbud and Dhananjay Marathe, engineers and dedicated naturalists, have uncovered since they set out on a quest in 2012.

The two men are part of a long tradition of amateur archaeologists, according to Tejas Garge, the head of the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums for the state of Maharashtra, and the petroglyphs they have uncovered amount to a trove of international significance. They are the most recent collection of rock art to join other images left by Stone Age peoples around the globe. Like paintings and carvings in Australia, the US Southwest, Africa and elsewhere, the carvings are cryptic messages left by people whose lives are lost in the mists of deep time.

Garge estimates the oldest of the ground carvings are 10,000 to 40,000 years old, but dating such images is imprecise, particularly since rigorous study of the whole collection is just beginning. A petroglyph in the village of Devache Gothane in Ratnagiri, India, at a site where compasses read incorrectly, April 15, 2019. The cause is as yet unknown. Two amateur archaeologists have uncovered a collection of mysterious rock carvings on the Indian coastal plain south of Mumbai.

Some of the images appear to relate to a life of hunting and gathering—deer, fish, turtles. Others depict animals of great power, like tigers and elephants. And there are humans, probably fertility figures, images of a mother goddess like those found elsewhere in India and around the world. The fertility images are usually accompanied by abstract designs, and some of the carvings are all abstract. Even now, they can stir the emotions and the imagination the way they must have ages ago.

Some are worn, others still vivid, especially where they have been sprinkled with sand to fill the deep grooves. Garge said the state had earmarked about $3 million for preservation of the drawings and for research to narrow their age and try to learn about the people who made them. Unlike most other Stone Age rock carvings around the world, these images are not drawn on walls or standing rocks, but cut into the exposed stone of flat hilltops along what is called the Konkan coastal plateau. Their style is realistic for the animals, and more stylised for humans.

Most of the animals, including elephants, are life-size and one site with multiple carvings is the largest in South Asia, Garge said. He believes it should be a national monument. Sudhir Risbud examines a petroglyph in Ratnagiri, India, April 15, 2019. Two amateur archaeologists, including Risbud, have uncovered a collection of mysterious rock carvings on the Indian coastal plain south of Mumbai.

The discovery so far has not received a great deal of academic attention, but Jean Clottes, an expert on cave art and the editor of the International Newsletter on Rock Art, said in an email that the collection of images “is an important discovery, no doubt.” He said well-preserved carvings on the ground have been found elsewhere, but are unusual. Meenakshi Dubey-Pathak, a freelance researcher and artist who has published extensively on Indian rock art said the carvings share imagery with other Indian rock art and rock art worldwide. “These were hunter gatherers,” she said and the carvings were not art for art’s sake. “They had meaning and purpose,” she said. Indian tourists have been visiting the sites, since published reports of the epic journey of discovery by Risbud and Marathe first appeared last fall.

But the sites are not easy to locate. You can find images on the tourism website for Ratnagiri, but there are no directions to or GPS locations for the various sites. To find the carvings, a tourist needs to ask local town and village residents; Garge, Risbud and Marathe would like to keep it that way. Most of the carvings are on private land, and it would be costly to buy all the sites to preserve them. Garge hopes to make the sites a source of income to local residents. He described an encounter with a tea seller who had a small stall at a crossroads near one of the sites.

The state had considered putting up signs with directions, Garge said, but the tea seller asked him not to do so. Dhananjay Marathe along the edges of ancient abstract designs carved into laterite rock in Ratnagiri, India, April 15, 2019. Two amateur archaeologists, including Marathe, have uncovered a collection of mysterious rock carvings on the Indian coastal plain south of Mumbai.

People stop, they have at least a cup of tea and they ask directions, the tea seller told him. And his income has climbed as word of the carvings has gotten out. Now, Garge’s department is working on pilot projects for 15 sites to provide a comfortable viewing area with an elevated platform, a concession stand and a way for a village to sell tickets. Some of the carvings were known to locals before Risbud and Marathe began their investigation. And researchers had done a study on one site in 1980. Amateur historians and some academics had written a bit about the few that had been identified. But it was only after the two engineers began to explore systematically and recruit other searchers, that the number and richness of the carvings became clear. Indian newspapers and the BBC reported on the extent of their finds last year.

The two friends are both avid naturalists. Marathe has published a guide to birds of the Konkan plateau. They met while participating in a bird survey. Both had recollections of seeing the drawings when they were younger and a general interest in everything about the Konkan plateau. So the search began. It wasn’t easy at the beginning, Marathe said. For the first two years, he said, “we had no luck.” But then one day they encountered an old shepherd who told them about a newly discovered carving. They began to seek out herders who bring cattle or sheep onto the plateaus after the monsoon season when the sparse vegetation of the hot months gives way to a burst of lush grass and flowers.

The herders and their families pointed them to other sites, often adding mythological stories of how the carvings came to be. For instance, Marathe pointed to one depression in the rock that could be taken to be an impression left by someone lying down. According to villagers the impression was left by Sita, Lord Rama’s wife, who was stolen away by the demon king Ravana in the epic poem the Ramayana. This was where Ravana, while on the run, lay with Sita.

From December 2012 until now, Marathe, Risbud and other friends have not only sought out new carvings, they have pursued government support at all levels for the recognition and preservation of the carvings. “They have tremendous passion,” Garge said. “They could extract this information from locals and they could find all this, so we are really grateful.”

Garge, whose specialty is historical archaeology, met the men after coming to Maharashtra in 2017. He visited some of the sites and appointed a member of his staff, Rhutvij Apte, to oversee research. Dating rock carvings is not easy, but there are clues, Garge said. One is that once agriculture appears, people carve images of bulls. There are no such images in the drawings from Maharashtra, he said, which feature every variety of wild animal, suggesting that these carvings were made by people who hunted and foraged for wild plants. If the carvings were made before the development of agriculture, that would date them to at least 10,000 years ago. Another clue is that the carvings include images of rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses. That suggests that the drawings date even farther back, to 20,000 or 30,000 years ago, because fossil evidence indicates that’s when those animals lived in this region.

The realistic details in drawings, like the shape and placement of horns suggest personal knowledge of the animals, not creation from hearsay. Finally, there are stone tools. When Apte started coordinating research he found microliths, small stone tools, characteristic of the Mesolithic period, which stretches as far back as 40,000 years ago. Without definitive dates, Garge puts the range at 10,000 to 40,000 years. The next steps in research, he said, are to document each figure with drone photography, photographic mapping, and, if the budget permits, three-dimensional laser scans, so that if the carvings were lost to erosion or construction or mining of the laterite stone for brick, they could be recreated not only in outline, but in-depth, which can give an indication of carving technique.

Garge’s department will also be looking for evidence of the people who made the carvings. The figures are found only on windswept hills that are flooded during monsoons, places where there would have been no shelter. The carvers would have had to come to these places on purpose to make the drawings. This year researchers began excavating a cave about 20 miles away and found microliths like those on the hilltops, as well as other, larger stone tools. “We are hoping to find more shelter sites in closer proximity to the petroglyphs,” Garge said. For now, the carvings are mysterious and pose interesting questions about the people who lived during that time period. “Do you think society was advanced enough that they would pay for artistic work” in the form of food sharing, for example, Garge wondered, or were they freeing a group member from hunting or gathering to sit and dig into stone? And he noted that worldwide, rock carvings come from a time when humans were beginning to grapple with the meaning of the forces that affected their lives, perhaps when the first religious ideas were forming.

Many of the animals featured in the drawings could have been objects of fear, he said, “elephants, rhinos, sting ray, shark,” not to mention tigers. It would make sense, he said, if these potentially dangerous creatures were invested with some spiritual power. “You always worship malevolent gods first,” he said.

- https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/culture/ancient-rock-art-plains-india, May 13, 2019

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Konkan cave holds clues to prehistoric artists

Archaeologists work at an excavation site in a cave near the town of Kankavali in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, India, April 14, 2019. Two amateur archaeologists have uncovered a collection of mysterious rock carvings on the Indian coastal plain south of Mumbai. Researchers have discovered Stone Age rock carvings—which could be between 10,000 to 40,000 years old—on a stony hilltop south of Mumbai. Some of the images appear to relate to a life of hunting and gathering—deer, fish, turtles. Others depict animals of great power, like tigers and elephants. Their style is realistic for the animals and more stylised for humans. By James Gorman and Atul Loke.

In the evening breeze on a stony hilltop a day’s drive south of Mumbai, Sudhir Risbud tramped from one rock carving to another, pointing out the hull of a boat, birds, a shark, human figures and two life-size tigers. “They’re male,” he said with a smile, noting that the carver had taken pains to make the genitalia too obvious to ignore. He was doing a brief tour of about two dozen figures, a sampling of 100 or so all etched into a hard, pitted rock called laterite that is common on the coastal plain that borders the Arabian Sea. The carvings are only a sample of 1,200 figures that Risbud and Dhananjay Marathe, engineers and dedicated naturalists, have uncovered since they set out on a quest in 2012. The two men are part of a long tradition of amateur archaeologists, according to Tejas Garge, the head of the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums for the state of Maharashtra, and the petroglyphs they have uncovered amount to a trove of international significance. They are the most recent collection of rock art to join other images left by Stone Age peoples around the globe. Like paintings and carvings in Australia, the US Southwest, Africa and elsewhere, the carvings are cryptic messages left by people whose lives are lost in the mists of deep time.

Garge estimates the oldest of the ground carvings are 10,000 to 40,000 years old, but dating such images is imprecise, particularly since rigorous study of the whole collection is just beginning. A petroglyph in the village of Devache Gothane in Ratnagiri, India, at a site where compasses read incorrectly, April 15, 2019. The cause is as yet unknown. Two amateur archaeologists have uncovered a collection of mysterious rock carvings on the Indian coastal plain south of Mumbai. Some of the images appear to relate to a life of hunting and gathering—deer, fish, turtles. Others depict animals of great power, like tigers and elephants. And there are humans, probably fertility figures, images of a mother goddess like those found elsewhere in India and around the world. The fertility images are usually accompanied by abstract designs, and some of the carvings are all abstract. Even now, they can stir the emotions and the imagination the way they must have ages ago.

Some are worn, others still vivid, especially where they have been sprinkled with sand to fill the deep grooves. Garge said the state had earmarked about $3 million for preservation of the drawings and for research to narrow their age and try to learn about the people who made them. Unlike most other Stone Age rock carvings around the world, these images are not drawn on walls or standing rocks, but cut into the exposed stone of flat hilltops along what is called the Konkan coastal plateau. Their style is realistic for the animals, and more stylised for humans. Most of the animals, including elephants, are life-size and one site with multiple carvings is the largest in South Asia, Garge said. He believes it should be a national monument. Sudhir Risbud examines a petroglyph in Ratnagiri, India, April 15, 2019. Two amateur archaeologists, including Risbud, have uncovered a collection of mysterious rock carvings on the Indian coastal plain south of Mumbai.

The discovery so far has not received a great deal of academic attention, but Jean Clottes, an expert on cave art and the editor of the International Newsletter on Rock Art, said in an email that the collection of images “is an important discovery, no doubt.” He said well-preserved carvings on the ground have been found elsewhere, but are unusual. Meenakshi Dubey-Pathak, a freelance researcher and artist who has published extensively on Indian rock art said the carvings share imagery with other Indian rock art and rock art worldwide. “These were hunter gatherers,” she said and the carvings were not art for art’s sake. “They had meaning and purpose,” she said. Indian tourists have been visiting the sites, since published reports of the epic journey of discovery by Risbud and Marathe first appeared last fall. But the sites are not easy to locate. You can find images on the tourism website for Ratnagiri, but there are no directions to or GPS locations for the various sites. To find the carvings, a tourist needs to ask local town and village residents; Garge, Risbud and Marathe would like to keep it that way. Most of the carvings are on private land, and it would be costly to buy all the sites to preserve them. Garge hopes to make the sites a source of income to local residents. He described an encounter with a tea seller who had a small stall at a crossroads near one of the sites. The state had considered putting up signs with directions, Garge said, but the tea seller asked him not to do so. Dhananjay Marathe along the edges of ancient abstract designs carved into laterite rock in Ratnagiri, India, April 15, 2019. Two amateur archaeologists, including Marathe, have uncovered a collection of mysterious rock carvings on the Indian coastal plain south of Mumbai.

People stop, they have at least a cup of tea and they ask directions, the tea seller told him. And his income has climbed as word of the carvings has gotten out. Now, Garge’s department is working on pilot projects for 15 sites to provide a comfortable viewing area with an elevated platform, a concession stand and a way for a village to sell tickets. Some of the carvings were known to locals before Risbud and Marathe began their investigation. And researchers had done a study on one site in 1980. Amateur historians and some academics had written a bit about the few that had been identified. But it was only after the two engineers began to explore systematically and recruit other searchers, that the number and richness of the carvings became clear. Indian newspapers and the BBC reported on the extent of their finds last year. The two friends are both avid naturalists. Marathe has published a guide to birds of the Konkan plateau. They met while participating in a bird survey. Both had recollections of seeing the drawings when they were younger and a general interest in everything about the Konkan plateau. So the search began. It wasn’t easy at the beginning, Marathe said. For the first two years, he said, “we had no luck.” But then one day they encountered an old shepherd who told them about a newly discovered carving. They began to seek out herders who bring cattle or sheep onto the plateaus after the monsoon season when the sparse vegetation of the hot months gives way to a burst of lush grass and flowers. The herders and their families pointed them to other sites, often adding mythological stories of how the carvings came to be. For instance, Marathe pointed to one depression in the rock that could be taken to be an impression left by someone lying down. According to villagers the impression was left by Sita, Lord Rama’s wife, who was stolen away by the demon king Ravana in the epic poem the Ramayana. This was where Ravana, while on the run, lay with Sita. From December 2012 until now, Marathe, Risbud and other friends have not only sought out new carvings, they have pursued government support at all levels for the recognition and preservation of the carvings. “They have tremendous passion,” Garge said. “They could extract this information from locals and they could find all this, so we are really grateful.” Garge, whose specialty is historical archaeology, met the men after coming to Maharashtra in 2017. He visited some of the sites and appointed a member of his staff, Rhutvij Apte, to oversee research. Dating rock carvings is not easy, but there are clues, Garge said. One is that once agriculture appears, people carve images of bulls. There are no such images in the drawings from Maharashtra, he said, which feature every variety of wild animal, suggesting that these carvings were made by people who hunted and foraged for wild plants. If the carvings were made before the development of agriculture, that would date them to at least 10,000 years ago. Another clue is that the carvings include images of rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses.

That suggests that the drawings date even farther back, to 20,000 or 30,000 years ago, because fossil evidence indicates that’s when those animals lived in this region. The realistic details in drawings, like the shape and placement of horns suggest personal knowledge of the animals, not creation from hearsay. Finally, there are stone tools. When Apte started coordinating research he found microliths, small stone tools, characteristic of the Mesolithic period, which stretches as far back as 40,000 years ago. Without definitive dates, Garge puts the range at 10,000 to 40,000 years.

The next steps in research, he said, are to document each figure with drone photography, photographic mapping, and, if the budget permits, three-dimensional laser scans, so that if the carvings were lost to erosion or construction or mining of the laterite stone for brick, they could be recreated not only in outline, but in-depth, which can give an indication of carving technique. Garge’s department will also be looking for evidence of the people who made the carvings. The figures are found only on windswept hills that are flooded during monsoons, places where there would have been no shelter. The carvers would have had to come to these places on purpose to make the drawings. This year researchers began excavating a cave about 20 miles away and found microliths like those on the hilltops, as well as other, larger stone tools. “We are hoping to find more shelter sites in closer proximity to the petroglyphs,” Garge said. For now, the carvings are mysterious and pose interesting questions about the people who lived during that time period. “Do you think society was advanced enough that they would pay for artistic work” in the form of food sharing, for example, Garge wondered, or were they freeing a group member from hunting or gathering to sit and dig into stone? And he noted that worldwide, rock carvings come from a time when humans were beginning to grapple with the meaning of the forces that affected their lives, perhaps when the first religious ideas were forming. Many of the animals featured in the drawings could have been objects of fear, he said, “elephants, rhinos, sting ray, shark,” not to mention tigers. It would make sense, he said, if these potentially dangerous creatures were invested with some spiritual power. “You always worship malevolent gods first,” he said.

- https://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-konkan-cave-holds-clues-to-prehistoric-artists-2748734, May 13, 2019

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Krishnadevaraya inscription found in state of neglect

An inscription of emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara empire dated 1518 AD was found in a pathetic condition at Tadigadapa village on the outskirts of Vijayawada. Based on the information given by the villagers Subhakar Medasani, Krishna Prasad Medasani and Charitier Saagi Krishnamraju, Dr E Sivanagireddy, archaeologist-cum-epigraphist and CEO, Cultural Centre of Vijayawada and Amaravati on Sunday rushed to the spot and unearthed the inscription slab with the help of local community members.

Dr Reddy, after careful examination of the script, said the inscription was issued by Rayasam Kondamarusayya, military general of Kondapalli kingdom as subordinate to Sri Krishna Devaraya, who seized Kondapalli Fort from Gajapatis of Odisha in 1516 AD. The inscription mentions the digging of a well by Kondamarusayya for her mother Sangoyamma for providing drinking water facility in the village. The slab was found upside down on the roadside which once was fixed to the wall of Venugopala swamy temple.

The inscription was cleaned with soap water and the Telugu script was deciphered in two sides of the slab by Dr Siva Nagireddy. The slab was left uncared for heavy traffic of sand lorries. In view of the historical and archaeological importance, Reddy appealed to the Department of Archaeology and Museums to protect and preserve it for posterity.

- https://www.thehansindia.com/andhra-pradesh/krishnadevaraya-inscription-found-in-state-of-neglect-528957, May 13, 2019

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City’s heritage to be documented from June

For the first time in the Andhra Pradesh region, a documentation and listing of heritage and historical structures of Visakhapatnam district is being taken up by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach ) with support from departments such as the Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region Development Authority, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, Indian Railways, archaeology department, besides architecture students of Gitam Institute. The work is supposed to commence from mid-June of this year.

Architects from Intach have also been sent to Delhi for training in research, tracing heritage structures and documenting their detailed history. Experts point out that in the course of documentation, hitherto unknown and abandoned historic structures might be discovered. Intach convener (Visakhapatnam chapter), Mayank Kumari Deo, informed, “Apart from the known heritage structures of Old Town and ancient Buddhist sites in the district, there are several other temples, mosques, churches, private and public buildings that have heritage or historical values. However, due to lack of knowledge about their importance and in the absence of documentation, such structures are never taken into account.”

She added, “Trained conservation experts and architecture students will list and document such structure and include details such as measurement, materials used and architectural style adopted, strength of the building, chances of restoration, era of construction, purpose of the building or how it was used then and now. “It is also important that after restoration, we have to see the viability of income generation from the buildings so that money for maintenance and future restoration and repair works can be carried out in a self-sustaining mode.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/visakhapatnam/citys-heritage-to-be-documented-from-june/articleshow/69331654.cms, May 14, 2019

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200-year-old mysterious gondola unearthed in Lucknow's Chhatar Manzil

As new findings continue to tumble out during excavations, we can look forward to a new historical narrative of a society and its cultural patterns that deserve to be documented, shared and told. From Sanauli to Lucknow, history’s mysterious secrets are tumbling out! A recent excavation has now shown up that Lucknow has a ‘mystery’ boat. A royal boat may have been discovered at Lucknow’s 220-year-old Chhatar Manzil.

The discovery of a traditional, flat-bottomed boat, which is 42 feet long and 11 feet wide, has been brought to light by the officials of Uttar Pradesh’s state archaeological department, also referred to as UPSAD. While the officials have not confirmed whether this is a royal boat, it is baffling how the ‘mystery’ boat got buried in the ground in the first place. More details are awaited on the same. Interestingly, this marks the third major discovery since 2017, when excavation first began at the Chhatar Manzil as part of its restoration and conservation. Then, for the first time, a room had been discovered, lying buried beneath the palace complex. Not just that, an entire storey was also discovered lying buried, as were huge tunnel-shaped rooms connecting Kothi Farhatbaksh to the Chhatar Manzil, which had served as a palace for Awadh’s rulers and later became a bastion of Indian revolutionaries during the 1857 revolt. Kothi Farhatbaksh is known to have been built by Major General Claude Martin way back in 1781.

This structure too underwent extensive trenching at the same time as the Chhatar Manzil. Earlier on May 2, the Archeology Survey of India had found a chariot, a helmet, a shield and a dagger from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, where two decorated coffins with skeletons were found. ANI has quoted Dr. S.K. Manjul, Director of Institute of Archaeology as saying that the items that were found in Sanauli is not only of national importance but it also has global importance as it throws light on the history, life, and culture in the upper Ganga Yamuna Doab. According to one report, the coffins had copper layering all around. A chariot was also discovered, besides other items such as helmet, sword and dagger, shield and so on. Another report in Daily Pioneer points out that these items indicate the existence of a warrior class dating back to 2000 BCE. The Sanauli coffin mystery also deepens with the fact that one coffin with stone inlays had a woman’s skeleton with gold beads, an amulet made of semi-precious stones, armlet, pottery, and the second platform had her remains that included items like a copper mirror and hairpin. Two pots containing rice and black lentils were also found. A good practice would be to look beyond India in the field of archaeology to understand whether discoveries that may be similar to Lucknow’s royal boat or Sanauli’s copper-coated coffins are happening across the world.

Some notable findings reported in Archaeological News magazine show that a bronze age canoe has been discovered in Wales and the remains of a 1400-year-old river settlement along river Senne has been discovered at a construction site in Brussels. These new findings have all the makings of mysteries tumbling out until one also probes closer to understand how these have been completely missed out earlier. For context, consider an interesting quote by George Hancock, which refers to archaeology as a deeply conservative discipline in ‘Magicians of the Gods: The Forgotten Wisdom of Earth’s Lost Civilization’ in the following words: “Archaeologists have a horror of questioning anything their predecessors and peers announced to be true…in consequence, they focus, perhaps to a large extent, subconsciously on evidence and arguments that don’t upset the apple cart….but God forbid anything should be discovered that seriously undermine the established paradigm.”

The questions related to the mystery boat discovered in Lucknow are bound to continue. As new findings continue to tumble out during excavations, we can look forward to a new historical narrative of a society and its cultural patterns that deserve to be documented, shared and told.

- https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/travel-tourism/200-year-old-mysterious-gondola-unearthed-in-lucknows-chhatar-manzil/1578927/, May 15, 2019

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MoU signed between NMCG, HCL Foundation and INTACH for Rudraksh Plantation in Uttarakhand

As an initiative towards a greener ecosystem in Ganga Basin, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), HCL Foundation and INTACH for taking up a project of 'Plantation of Rudraksh Trees in Uttarakhand' under the 'Namami Gange' Programme. While the project aims at planting 10,000 Rudraksh trees in the catchment area of river Ganga in Uttarakhand in association with the local community and other stakeholders, it will also help in generating income for people residing in those areas.

While signing the MoU on Tuesday, NMCG Director General Rajiv Ranjan Mishra said, "The Namami Gange Mission aims at providing comprehensive and sustainable solutions for a cleaner ecosystem along the stretch of 97 towns and 4,465 villages on the Ganga stem. The afforestation drive and the Clean Ganga Mission will go hand in hand."

"While the government of India is spearheading the project, a public-private partnership provides the initiative with a much-needed impetus," he further said. The tripartite MoU was signed in the presence of NMCG Director General Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Executive Director (Projects) G. Ashok Kumar and other officials from HCL Foundation, INTACH and NMCG.

- https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/mou-signed-between-nmcg-hcl-foundation-and-intach-for-rudraksh-plantation-in-uttarakhand-119051500576_1.html, May 15, 2019

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